Guest post by Cherie Galyean of The Scraped-Up Kid, a BDN blog
It’s high season in Bar Harbor, my town. Doing anything takes twice as long as normal, our favorite restaurants are too full of people from around the globe to seat us, our friends don’t have time to come over because they are working 16-hour days, every day, and trying to get anywhere in town requires an extra 15 minutes of searching-for-parking time. It sounds great, doesn’t it? We spend all winter waiting for the glory of summer, and then we spend all summer just trying to find a parking space.
So why do we do it? Why do we put ourselves through the misery of living here? Sure, it’s beautiful. We’ve got mountains with ocean views, deep lakes for swimming and paddling, beaches and open granite peaks and cliffs. It’s spectacular.
But Maine is full of beautiful places. There are lakes, mountains, forests, cliffs, valleys, rivers, and beaches all over the state. These wonders are contained in state parks, land trust preserves, corporate holdings, and your great-uncle Joe’s camp. So what do we get from Acadia? Why do we choose to live here in this madness?
We get scope.
We get access to over a hundred miles of some of the best hiking trails in New England. These trails range from strolls along the ocean to rock climbs, from quick after-work jaunts to day-long epic rambles, and all of them can be accessed without hiking into the wilderness for days. Sure, many people love a week-long backpacking trip, but some of us, those of us with kids or who don’t like sleeping on the ground–and I count myself in both categories — appreciate the chance to get in and out of the wild within the scope of one day.
We can go back in time and explore miles of carriage roads on foot, bike, snowshoes, skis or horse (probably not all at the same time, though). These carefully constructed gravel roads are full of secret vistas, thoughtful design, and awe-inspiring bridges. We can go see a waterfall via these roads, get to a mountaintop, or go get some popovers.
We can fish, canoe, kayak, paddleboard, and sometimes swim in our choice of lake or ocean. Do we prefer hidden serenity today or a more social experience with tons of people? We can choose that. We can tidepool, boulder, rock climb, catch frogs or simply sit and watch the water.
We can do all of this within a 15-minute drive of our house.
We get resources.
Those trails we hike on? They are some of the best-maintained trails I’ve ever seen. They are clearly marked, regularly inspected, and full of steps, bridges, ladders and rungs to help us over the tricky spots. They have updated signage with distance marked on each one, which can boost the spirits of a flagging child. They are clear enough to run on while being rustic enough to be challenging.
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On the way to those trails, we get nature centers with displays about the environment around us. We get rangers who always seem to have a few minutes for the kids. Sometimes these rangers point out hidden birds, teach us about how these lands were formed or show us how to find constellations in the stars. If there’s no ranger or nature center, there’s often an informational sign to help us see things in a new light.
We get bathrooms that get cleaned regularly and sometimes even have flushing toilets.
It’s a world of luxury, I tell you.
We get the opportunity to be stewards.
We drop money into the donation boxes at nature centers. We help tourists find their way to Sand Beach and make hike recommendations to people in town. My children have identified flowers and birds for confused mountain climbers and have made friends for a day with fellow ice fisherkids. We’ve done cleanup days, trail work, and invasive species removal since the kids were small, helping them appreciate all the work that goes into this place.
All of this builds our pride in and sense of belonging to this place.
Last fall, we were helping prep the carriage trails for winter when my kids, tired of raking and struggling with boredom, started moaning, “Why do we have to dooo thiiiis?”
“Because,” I said. “We have to take care of the park. We own it.”
“We do,” I said. “We all do.”
And they started raking again. Not joyfully, true, but with a new sense of purpose.
So, look, yes, I’d like to be able to park in my own town in August. And yes, it would be nice if every trip to the grocery store didn’t require many rounds of deep breathing while people block the aisle debating whether or not they need ketchup for the week. I’ll even admit that I do sometimes get sick of giving directions, recommendations, and explanations of how lobster traps work.
But after all that, I gather up the kids and take them swimming, hiking, or exploring in the thousands and thousands of acres that make up our backyard. Because we own it.
So do you.
Lucky, lucky us.
In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.